ReadySteadyBlog

Not to beat about the bush, here's the book of the year.

The first volume of Samuel Beckett's Letters, 782 pages covering the years 1929-1940, appeared in 2009. Following Beckett's wishes, when he originally authorised an edition of his correspondence back in 1985, it was restricted to "letters relevant to Beckett the writer" rather than those merely revealing of his personal life, possibly a false distinction - and, despite its length, it was not comprehensive, containing only a proportion of the letters consulted.

Nonetheless, it was a revelation, a thrilling book for all who love Beckett, not only casting light on his life and work but significantly adding to his oeuvre.

Along with that, now at last emerging, of TS Eliot, Beckett's is the most significant literary correspondence of its time and here's the second tranche. Initially, it was announced that the war years would be skipped and the volume started in 1945 - and although there's been a change of heart about the title, nonetheless there are actually no letters reproduced from the period between 1941 and 1945, when Beckett worked with the French Resistance and had to go into hiding in the Midi to save his life.

The man who then resumes his correspondence is very much changed by his wartime experiences, which he never once refers to directly. Henceforth he writes as much in French as in English (all admirably translated) and his tone has changed too. In this volume, his editors note, "Beckett complains of no one but himself and of little but what he sees as his own inadequacies."

Read more: David Sexton on The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume II: 1941-1956, edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.

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